Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A National Treasure Goes Up in Flames.An Obituary for Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi Tombs, the burial site for ancient Buganda kings,the Kampala-based UNESCO heritage site has gone up in flames. It was reduced to ashes before my very eyes on live television Tuesday evening. The tombs were said to be 200 years old and the resting places of four kings of the ancient Buganda Kingdom. Reportedly set up in 1910 by the then King Mutesa I, the tombs have been a source of pride not only for enthnic Baganda but all Ugandans alike and I like to believe they were a national treasure which sadly we could afford to pass on to the next generations of Ugandans.
I watched as hundreds of youths cried helplessly infront of the raging flames as an ancient treasure of many years went up in smoke.
One was only left to wonder how the tombs which are only a few kilometres from the city centre couldnt be reached within minutes by the Kampala City fire Brigade. Was this just another case of the widespread public services incompetence and negliegence? Why should we be hard on critics who brand our nations failed states? Wasnt this just another illustration of a dysfunctional state?
The Kasubi tombs were a tourist site and a fixture for every foreign visitor to Kampala. They also offered spin-off employment to many as well as the traditional minders who lived on the premises.
I visited the Kasubi tombs as a child and I was in awe of all the traditional regalia that lay for all to see in the tombs and the extravagantly rich Buganda traditional on elegant display.
Many think that Africans have no achitectural heritage and Kasubi Tombs was always there to prove the doubters wrong. Now it is gone for good although an inspiring Facebook group is rallying wellwishers for a rebuilding effort.
The Kasubi Tombs fire is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our Banana republic and puts to question whether we have a functional state in Uganda. Where was the police in all this?
And was screaming in agony the best the onlookers could do to save the tombs? Why do we spend billions of shillings arranging to host the Queen of England when we cant even afford to keep the country's jewels for the next generation of Ugandans?

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